The best selling wartime diary of a 12-year-old Dutch boy who survived the German invasion of Rotterdam before escaping to America was an elaborate fake by the British secret services designed to draw the US into the war, according to a new book.
Dirk van der Heide's story, My Sister and I, was hugely popular with American readers in the summer of 1941. With his mother killed by Luftwaffe bombs and his father in the army, the diaries tell how Dirk and his little sister Keetje made a dramatic escape to England.
In London they experienced the terror of the Blitz before, frightened and desperate, they embarked on a children's ship, one of the many that carried refugees to safety in America - dodging packs of U-boats on the way.
The diary continues to be read and commented upon as if it were authentic. But a new book, Witness to War (Doubleday), by the leading intelligence historian Professor Richard Aldrich, alleges that Dirk van der Heide's diary was part of a vast campaign by British Secret Services to lure America into the conflict.
It is the only wartime diary where the child author admits to writing under a pseudonym and no photographs of the family have ever been located.
The diary's British publishers, Faber & Faber, knew that it was a propaganda tool. British intelligence prevented the firm from sharing that fact with its American publisher, Harcourt Brace.
In the end, it was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that brought America into the war.
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